FPIC Politics

Canada and UNDRIP: Q&A with Minister Bennett’s office

With the introduction of NDP MP Romeo Saganash’s private member’s bill last Thursday, pressure is mounting for the Trudeau government to explain how it will follow through on its commitments to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, including the right to free, prior, and informed consent.

Northern Public Affairs is working to bring together information about the Indigenous right to free, prior, and informed consent through the release of its free digital issue, coming in early May.

The following is a set of answers received on April 26, 2016 from federal Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett in response to questions sent to her office by Northern Public Affairs.

Specifically what steps does the Government intend to take to meet its election pledge to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples?

Canada is legally bound to consult, and accommodate when appropriate, Indigenous groups if contemplated Crown activity may potentially adversely affect those constitutionally protected rights. This legal duty to consult corresponds significantly with elements of the concept of ‘free, prior and informed consent’ as interpreted as an obligation to ‘seek to obtain’ consent.

Canada has already implemented federal policies reflecting the principles of the Declaration. Canada’s constitutional framework recognizes and protects existing and acquired Aboriginal and treaty rights through section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. Canada is legally bound to consult, and accommodate when appropriate, Indigenous groups if contemplated Crown activity may potentially adversely affect those constitutionally protected rights. In addition, the government of Canada has a horizontal Indigenous portfolio of programs that supports the principles captured by the Declaration.

We will be – in full partnership and consultation with First Nations, Inuit, and the Métis Nation – reviewing federal laws to ensure that the Crown is fully executing its obligations in accordance with its constitutional and international obligations. We are also re-engaging in a renewed Nation-to-Nation process with Indigenous Peoples to make progress on the issues most important to them – including housing, infrastructure, health and mental health care, community safety and policing, child welfare, and education.

We are redoubling our efforts across all Government departments, provinces and territories, municipalities, and with all Canadians to fully understand and implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Specifically what role will Indigenous Peoples play in this process?

Over the next several months the Government will work in consultation with Indigenous groups and other stakeholders on an approach to the implementation of the Declaration. This partnership will drive to consensus and lead to a renewed relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians.

Have any resources been allocated specifically and solely to undertake this process?

Over the next several months the Government will work in consultation with Indigenous groups and other stakeholders on an approach to the implementation of the Declaration.

The Government of Canada engages with Indigenous groups as a matter of course on policies that will impact them and whatever resources will be required to support this particular exercise will be found within the Department’s budget.

Will the Minister support legislation to ensure that all necessary measures are taken to ensure that the laws of Canada are consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples?

The Minister’s overarching goal is to renew the relationship between Canada and Indigenous peoples. This renewal must be a nation-to-nation relationship – one based on recognition of rights, respect, co-operation, and partnership.
We will be – in full partnership and consultation with First Nations, Inuit, and the Métis Nation – reviewing federal laws to ensure that the Crown is fully executing its obligations in accordance with its constitutional and international obligations.

How does the Government intend to ensure that Article 19 of the UNDRIP concerning the right of Indigenous Peoples to free, prior, and informed consent is enacted in Canadian law, policy, and administrative practice?

At its core, the concept of Free, Prior, and Informed Consent is about meaningful consultation with Indigenous Peoples on issues of concern to them with a goal of achieving consensus. The Government of Canada believes resource industry proponents, First Nations, and government should all strive towards consensus.

Canada’s constitutional framework recognizes and protects existing and acquired Aboriginal and treaty rights through Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. Furthermore, Canada is legally bound to consult, and accommodate when appropriate, Indigenous groups if contemplated Crown activity may potentially adversely affect those constitutionally protected rights. This legal duty to consult corresponds significantly with elements of the concept of ‘free, prior and informed consent’ as interpreted as an obligation to ‘seek to obtain’ consent.◉


Photo credit: istockphoto/bukharova

You Might Also Like